Scotland confirms alcohol minimum unit price at 50p

The Scottish Government has confirmed that it will recommend the country’s minimum price per unit of alcohol be set at 50p, following the results of a public consultation. Minimum pricing is set to come into force on 1 May, after a five-year legal battle with the drinks industry (DDN, December/January, page 4), and the 50p recommended price will now be laid before parliament.

The consultation received 130 responses, almost equally split between organisations and individuals. Nearly three quarters of those who commented on the 50p price were supportive while 17 per cent felt it should be higher and 5 per cent thought it should be lower.

Shona Robison: This move will save thousands of lives.

‘I am grateful to everyone who took the time to respond to the consultation on our proposed minimum price per unit of alcohol and I am happy to confirm that we will be moving forward with our recommendation of 50 pence,’ said health secretary Shona Robison. ‘With alcohol on sale today in some places at just 16 pence per unit, we have to tackle the scourge of cheap, high-strength drink that causes so much damage to so many families. This move will save thousands of lives.’

Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie, however, has called for the price to be set at 60p to reflect factors such as the impact of inflation.

‘In excess, alcohol wrecks lives, families and communities,’ he said. ‘Low prices for decades have increased that harm caused in Scotland. Inflation has eroded the value of the original minimum price during the years that this policy has been caught up in the courts. That is one of the reasons why Scottish Liberal Democrats pressed the Scottish Government to introduce a higher rate but ministers have bottled it. With hospitalisations on the rise, we need to see the Scottish Government do far more to tackle the scourge of alcohol abuse.’

Meanwhile, a new report from the University of Sheffield’s alcohol research group, commissioned by the Welsh Government, has found that three quarters of all alcohol drunk in Wales is consumed by less than a quarter of the population, with just 3 per cent of harmful drinkers consuming 27 per cent.

Nearly 40 per cent of all alcohol bought in Wales is sold for less than 50p per unit, it adds. Last year’s Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) (Wales) Bill (DDN, November 2017, page 4), is set to introduce minimum pricing if passed by the National Assembly for Wales.

‘People who drink alcohol at hazardous and harmful levels drink 75 per cent of the alcohol consumed in Wales,’ said health secretary Vaughan Gething. ‘The report shows the greatest impact of a minimum unit price would be on the most deprived harmful drinkers, while moderate drinkers would experience only small impacts on their alcohol consumption and spending.’

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